Eleanor Roosevelt – My Day (Sept. 1941)

eleanor

MY DAY

By Eleanor Roosevelt

September 1, 1941

Hyde Park, Sunday –
Yesterday was a very busy day. I had a picnic and guests at lunch and again at supper. The noon picnic was very small and included the children who are here; Diana Hopkins, Elliott Jr., and Chandler. The evening one had a much larger group.

In the afternoon we had the annual Roosevelt Home Club Celebration on Mr. Moses Smith’s lawn. After our newspaper contingent had returned from Poughkeepsie and filed their stories, they came back, and together with our office force, we ate all our picnic supper at my cottage. This has become an annual affair on Labor Day weekend, and is almost the only time I have a chance to greet all those who work so hard during their journeys up here with the President.

Tomorrow is Labor Day, which I always think one of the most significant holidays we have. It shows how much we think of the dignity of labor when we mark it by a national holiday. There is no one who believes more strongly than I do that play and rest are important in life, but above and beyond everything else, work must be to us all the phase of our lives for which we are most grateful. To have a job, to do it as well as you are able, is perhaps the main satisfaction in life for most people.

I wonder how many people know that the statue of the “Minute Man,” which is used on our defense bonds posters, was done by the sculptor, Mr. Daniel Chester French, who did the great marble Lincoln statue in the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC. Perhaps it would interest you to know a little about the making of this statue, since the story is told to me by the sculptor’s daughter, Mrs. William Penn Cresson. She writes:

The young sculptor borrowed from the art museum a large plaster cast of the “Apollo Belvedere,” which he set up on one side of his studio, and on the other side he placed a long full-length mirror, in which he surveyed his own not unattractive form. And there he made his “Minute Man.”

The dedication of the statue on the 19th of April, 1875, was a very great occasion in the little town of Concord, Mass. It was one of those bitterly cold days that we have so often in the New England spring. More people were said to have died from the effects of that cold, than had died on the day of the battle they were celebrating.

President Grant and all his Cabinet came from Washington for the unveiling. Longfellow and Lowell marched in the procession. George William Curtis was the orator of the day, and orated for more than two hours in the cold. Emerson read his poem written for the occasion, the lines of which were cut on the pedestal of the statue.


September 2, 1941

Hyde Park, Monday –
Yesterday, Mr. and Mrs. Jay Allen, and Mr. and Mrs. Eric Knight lunched with us. It was an extremely interesting occasion. We sat far into the afternoon talking, and then visited the library. Later, I took Mr. and Mrs. Vinton Chapin, who spent the weekend with us, up to see Mrs. George Huntington. Mr. Chapin has been in Dublin, Ireland, with our Minister and Mrs. David Gray, and I knew Mrs. Huntington would enjoy some word of the Grays as much as I did.

Having so many grandchildren myself, I am always interested in seeing my friend’s grandchildren. Mrs. Huntington has two who flew all the way from Honolulu for a visit with her. They are certainly attractive children and I think she must be very proud of the way in which her son and daughter-in-law bring them up, for their manners at the ages of one-and-a-half, and three-years-old, are quite impeccable!

I have had a little time the last day or two to go through the numerous reports which have been sent me. Among them, I found a pamphlet prepared by the Michigan Historical Records Survey Project. This particular one was compiled by Negro workers and is an inventory of the records of all Negro organizations and of the holdings, chiefly family papers, of many individuals.

They have searched the manuscript holdings of the Burton Historical Collection of the Detroit Public Library. Mr. John C. Dancy Jr., whose calendar of correspondence is given in this publication, by the Reverend John Miles, chairman of this particular group, has contributed something of value to his race through his cooperation and preservation of this valuable and historic correspondence.

I have had protests from various people because I wrote in this column some time ago, that certain islands and their populations, off the coast of Maine, were remote. It has been pointed out to me quite firmly that one can reach any part of Maine today very easily, and that by air it is only three hours from Bangor, Maine, to New York City.

Everyone realizes, I think, how easy it is to reach Maine resorts both in winter and in summer for sports of all kinds. I was thinking about something very different. It happens to people in big cities, or out on the plains of the Midwest, or along the coasts of the Atlantic or the Pacific. Sometimes it happens on real islands, sometimes on the islands of the mind. People become remote from the stream of world affairs and are forgotten, and, themselves, forget the rest of their fellow men.


September 3, 1941

Washington, Tuesday –
We arrived in Washington this morning to find it fairly cool, and my daughter-in-law Ruth and I are both delighted. How spoiled one can become when the state of the weather really makes any difference in one’s morning outlook. As a matter of fact, both of us were thinking far more about the things we had to do, and how much easier it is to do them when the thermometer does not register 95 degrees in the shade, with corresponding humidity!

I had an appointment this morning with Dr. Valiera Parker, who then went to see Administrator McNutt. I also spoke with Dean Russell to discuss his meeting, which is to be held here tomorrow on the subject of citizenship training for aliens. This meeting will be attended by the state directors of education and many others.

I am shocked to find through some of the clippings which have come to me, that my answer to a press conference question last week, as to whether I was satisfied with the volunteer participation in civilian defense, seems to have caused a complete misunderstanding of my attitude. I answered truthfully, that I was not satisfied with the civilian defense participation. But that was no criticism, as it was apparently taken to be, of Mayor LaGuardia, because I am sure he is not satisfied either!

How could any of us be content when the organization is just beginning and will never be complete until every man, woman and child in every community throughout the nation, feels that in one way or another, they are contributing to national defense?

Secondly, I find that certain groups of women think that I do not believe in the participation of women in national defense. I can hardly understand how this misconception took place, because I have wanted women to take their place in national defense long before the government machinery was set up.

I felt strongly that, while it was well to take up any training available, it was better not to set up programs which could not later be easily incorporated with whatever arrangements were made through government channels. I believe that there is work to be done by every man, woman and child in the country. Some of us can take training which will make us useful in ways that are closely related to military work. Others, many more probably, can devote themselves to improving the life in their own communities.

This is a very important part of national defense, for it is this life in our own communities which makes national defense worthwhile. If it is a good life and meets our needs, and we know our neighbors are cooperating to achieve better conditions, then any sacrifices we make to preserve what we have and to attain what we hope for, are cheerfully made, and are part of the duty which we recognize as citizens in a free democracy.


September 4, 1941

Washington, Wednesday –
Last night, we saw a very beautiful movie, a documentary film The Forgotten Village, written by John Steinbeck, with music by Hans Eisler. It is the story of a boy in a small village in Mexico and shows the life of the village, the superstitions which still exist, and the bad sanitation. It portrays the gathering of the family round the fire in the evening, the birth of a new baby, the selling of the corn which is the basis of life, a festival and a death in the family.

Finally, the young Mexican leaves his village, because the local schoolmaster has brought knowledge and inspiration to such of the youth of the community who are open to new ideas. The boy will return trained to lead his people to a better life.

I was tremendously interested in the medical trucks which go over almost impassable roads to serve the people in these remote villages. That rural medical service seems to me of great importance. Mexico is doing something which we could well study, for we need to improve our own services in many ways.

Some of the young people of the International Student Service, who were with us in Campobello last summer, were here last night. Since two of them came from Seattle, Wash., they brought another Seattle friend, so I am beginning to gather up quite a number of young acquaintances whom I shall want to see when I visit my daughter this month.

Some of these young people are starting to hitchhike back to college and look upon it as a real adventure. They have, of course, definite destinations, but hitchhiking gives them a chance to see unexpected places and make new acquaintances. Instead of being merely a journey, it is an exciting and unpredictable experience.

This morning, I had a press conference and several appointments before a group of young friends came to meet my daughters-in-law, Mrs. James Roosevelt and Mrs. Elliott Roosevelt, at lunch.

Dean William Fletcher Russell, of Teachers College, Columbia University, is holding a meeting here in the White House this afternoon to discuss a program of education for the great group of aliens who are to become citizens of our country during the next few years. It is an important undertaking and will mean a great deal in improving the quality of citizenship they are able to bring to their new home.

I hope a great many women throughout the country will be celebrating Jane Addams’ birthday on September 6. Miss Addams served humanity so well she should never be forgotten. Anyone who knew her, will remember the inspiration of her presence, but her spirit went far beyond the individuals who knew her. It affected the thinking and living of people all over the world.


September 5, 1941

Washington, Thursday –
I have a request from a man on a Charleston, SC, paper, who suggests that it would be well on September 13, the 127th anniversary of the writing of our national anthem, “The Star Spangled Banner,” to emphasize the fact that this is a national anthem. It should, therefore, be sung by every man, woman and child whenever it is played anywhere in the country.

I think it is a grand idea, but may I suggest that if it is going to be done, someone will have to transpose this national anthem of ours so as to make it possible for those of us with little or no voice to sing it.

It is quite true that no song really inspires the people unless the people sing it. I agree heartily with this gentleman that if we are to create a feeling for the song, which translates itself into emotional patriotism, then every individual must sing it. There is nothing like mass singing to move people.

Yesterday, we spent a quiet evening and I was able to accomplish a great deal at my desk.

I have had two long letters from Franklin Jr., who is somewhere in the Atlantic Ocean, and has been for several weeks. They are interesting, though he is allowed to say nothing about his whereabouts.

This morning, I had an early breakfast and left by plane for Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. A busy day lies before me, which includes a press conference, lunch, visit to a housing project, opening of an NYA center, reception for a group of Democrats and speech this evening at the Mosque, all before another plane trip to New York City tonight.

A letter from Texas tells me that the Governor has proclaimed “Texas Children’s Week” from September 7 to September 13. I wonder whether this would not be a good program to inaugurate in all the states of the Union. The proclamation reads in part as follows:

Whereas progress has been made in Texas during the past few years in bettering the conditions for children within its boundaries, but what has been accomplished is just a start towards the completion of a program of adequate care for all children to give them a chance to become good citizens and take a responsible place in their respective communities… We hereby declare that a free people by conscious effort and thoughtful planning can make certain that all the needs of their children can be met.

This is done to carry out the recommendations made by the White House Conference in 1940 on children in a democracy.


September 6, 1941

New York, Friday –
One never realizes beforehand what a busy day really means! My plane was late in leaving Washington yesterday morning for Pittsburgh, Pa., so I was a little late all through the day. It made me feel like a small dog chasing his tail.

It was a very pleasant day, however, and I particularly enjoyed my visit to the NYA resident center. Two months ago, when I first promised to go there, they told me that the buildings did not look as though they would ever be finished. The boys were informed of my visit, and volunteered to give extra time in order to show me more when I arrived. They did extraordinarily well. The shops were ready and they were busily at work in them, and they also showed me a very complete dormitory and mess hall.

Their only lack is a recreation building. Each dormitory has some small space, which can be used by a very few boys at a time for writing letters or a game of table tennis. There is not space enough for indoor recreation as yet.

The chief joy of this resident center is its location on top of one of the high hills with a beautiful view in every direction. I asked one of the boys working in the radio section if he was enjoying this opportunity and his answer was:

Indeed I am, and I gained twelve pounds, if that’s any sign of progress.

Just as we’re leaving, the blackest clouds gathered and before we reached the housing project, it was raining in torrents. The ceremony there was spoiled by the rain, but some of us gathered in the high school auditorium and I was able to give the keys of their houses to a number of people. Most of them are young and are starting out in these new homes, which are among the first to be completed in the defense housing program around Pittsburgh. The mills are expanding and they will be able to destroy some of their old slums, so a few people at least will have an opportunity to live under better conditions.

We were so late in reaching the reception held by the Democratic women, that I just went up on the platform and made a little speech. Finally, I returned to my hotel with an hour to dress and eat dinner before the evening speech and forum, which was being held under the auspices of the Public Affairs Committee, a nonpartisan organization interested in education for citizenship.

At 11:37, we reached the airport, only to find that the plane to New York City was cancelled because of bad weather. This meant a dash back to the city to the station and a train trip, which landed me in New York City this morning rather later than I had intended starting my day.


September 8, 1941

Hyde Park, Sunday –
An anxious 24 hours culminated a little before noon today in the death of my husband’s mother. Had she lived until the 21st of this month, she would have celebrated her 87th birthday. One can have none of the resentment which comes when death cuts short a young life, but she was a very vital person with a keen interest in living and I think had she had a few more years vouchsafed her, she would have lived them with keen avidity and enjoyment.

She was born in the year 1854, brought up in a large family and endowed with the Delano beauty. She sailed to China on a clipper ship, as well as to Europe on the most modern of today’s steamers. Her early experiences were picturesque and interesting.

Her life was a rich, full life. She had seen her only son inaugurated as President of the United States three times, and she still felt that her husband was the most wonderful man she had ever known.

I think her family, both in her own generation, and in the younger generation, would say that her strongest trait was loyalty to the family. She had no hesitancy about telling her near and dear ones their faults, or criticizing their behavior, but if any one else in the world were to attack a member of her family, she would rise in their defense like a tigress. Whatever the family did, in the end, she accepted and condoned before the world, no matter what her private feelings might be.

She was a very generous person, not only to her own family, but to many others. She was charitable, but I think she enjoyed even more giving to those whom she knew had once enjoyed a little more financial leeway than might be theirs today, and who would therefore prize some little luxury.

She would give away large sums of money and save small ones. The President’s mother always attributed her little economies, like undoing string and folding wrapping paper for future use, to her New England upbringing. She was not just sweetness and light, for there was a streak of jealousy and possessiveness in her where her own were concerned, but when others were bored, she would be kind and had the gift of making all those around her feel that the word “grande dame,” was truly applicable to her.

She wanted her son to live up to high standards of character and conduct, and never believed that he failed in this. She spoiled her grandchildren perhaps a little, but they had great affection and respect for her. I think even some of her great-grandchildren will remember her when they grow up, as a very beautiful, stately old lady who loved them and made them feel that Hyde Park would be their home as long as it was hers.


September 9, 1941

Hyde Park, Monday –
Yesterday Jimmy and Rommie arrived here. Elliott flew from Washington, DC, but he had to fly back in the afternoon because of a military report which he had to give this morning. He and Ruth will be able to return here later today. Johnny and Anne drove over from Boston yesterday, and Ethel will arrive this afternoon.

Anna and John telephoned from Seattle, Wash., but my husband urged them to wait and come later when he could see a little more of them. He feels that a trip just for the funeral from that distance would give him more sense of anxiety, and that he would need them more a little later on.

Of course, Franklin Jr. is somewhere in the Atlantic and cannot possibly be here. I imagine he will get the news over the radio for as far as I know there is no other way of reaching him.

There is nothing in the way of a diary which I can write that people cannot duplicate in their own families, so I think I shall go back today and tell you some of the things I did last week, which I was unable to tell you about yesterday.

On Friday, in New York City, I went in the morning to see a portrait which a young artist had painted for Mr. Liberman, the President of Arnold Constable and Company, to add to the collection of portraits of inauguration gowns, which Mr. Liberman already has. Considering the fact that this portrait was painted entirely from photographs, except for what the artist could observe in a five minute talk with me last spring, I think the young man did remarkably well.

Most of Friday was spent getting things straightened out in the 65th Street house, with a brief interlude for lunch with Dr. Snavely. After lunch, I went to look at the market baskets, which the Camp Fire Girls have been working on as a project this summer. These baskets contain the food for a well balanced meal for four people at the price of one dollar. They presented me with their recipes for cooking this meal. I was glad to see this group of interested and active Camp Fire Girls.

In the evening I took Jimmy and his wife, and three other people, to see Ethel Barrymore in The Corn Is Green. It was the second time I had seen the play and I enjoyed it as much as I did the first time. Miss Barrymore’s acting is very moving in the last scenes.

We had a beautiful drive up Saturday morning, and I arrived at Hyde Park just a few minutes after the President arrived from Washington.


September 10, 1941

Hyde Park, Wednesday –
Messages have poured in to the President from every part of the world as well as from every corner of the United States. In many cases, it is impossible to find the addresses of some of the kind people.

I know that it will not be possible adequately to acknowledge these expressions of sympathy and understanding, and so I want to express to all those who read this column the President’s deep appreciation, as well as my own, for this outpouring of kindly sympathy.

A loss of this kind always reminds people of their own losses, and they are full of understanding and express their feelings in many kindly ways. Probably the best thing that can happen to anyone at a time of personal loss is to be drawn back to work by a job that has to be done. If something must be done that requires concentration, that takes the individual out of himself, it is the best antidote for grief that I know.

We were up early this morning, since Johnny and Anne left for Boston at 6:30. He has finished his exams, but he is still attached to the Boston school until Friday and had to report today.

September 11, 1941

Washington, Thursday –
When I reached Washington last night, I was surprised to find that my bedroom and sitting room were being painted, so temporarily I am occupying President Lincoln’s bed! It is particularly large and ornate and I never realized before how awe-inspiring it must be to our guests.

However, I am glad to find that it is very comfortable, because long ago I can remember my grandmother telling me that one should always sleep in all of one’s guests’ beds, to make sure that they are comfortable.

Today is beautiful. The usual White House routine falls upon one like a mantle as soon as one returns. There are people to see, and one gentleman was here for luncheon on his way to New England from Chicago! Diana Hopkins and a little friend are spending the day, and my two daughters-in-law, Ruth and Rommie, were here for lunch.

They are the greatest joy to have with us. Elliott and Ruth are hoping to leave for Texas some time this evening by plane, but so far have not been able to get reservations. The airlines have to play second fiddle to some of the defense needs and people are traveling more constantly by air, with the result that reservations are hard to get.

I wonder if you have seen, in the October American Magazine the article on the part the British women are playing in the armed forces of Great Britain? For the first time, they have been accepted in artillery units and are operating anti-aircraft batteries as well as fire control instruments. They are enlisted to fight overseas as well as in England for the duration of the war, and they receive the “danger pay of the combat line.”

We have heard before of women in the Russian Army, but this is the first instance of women actually working side by side with the men in the armed forces of England. It shows that, when the need arises, there are few places where women cannot work side by side with men.

I have also received an appeal for charity in which I think everyone in this country will be interested. Those who remember the hospitals in the last war will remember what seemed to be almost the beginning of plastic surgery on a great scale. There are today in England four famous plastic surgeons.

Under auspices of the British American Ambulance Corps, a committee has been formed and is anxious to raise $100,000 to help these surgeons acquire better conditions under which they can treat RAF pilots, munitions workers, civilian defense workers and men, women and children who are maimed or disfigured by modern warfare.

Jimmy, Rommie, Elliott and Ruth left last night after an early supper to fly back from New York City to Washington, since Jimmy and Elliott both had to be at work this morning.

Franklin and Ethel’s little boy, Franklin III, arrived late yesterday afternoon to stay until Ethel gets settled for the winter. He has been at Hyde Park a good deal and my mother-in-law was devoted to him. He was very fond of her, in fact, he would mimic the way she called him when she came to see him last winter. He has been told that she has gone away for a long time, but for a while at least, I am sure he will miss her in the house.

At 1 o’clock today, my husband and I will start back to Washington. If circumstances permit, I shall come back fairly soon to attend to many details before the President returns to Hyde Park. It is extraordinary how many details there are and how many lives are affected by the passing of an older person. I suppose that must always be the case, because the longer one lives and draws people into one’s own orbit, the more interests one is bound to have.

September 12, 1941

Washington, Thursday –
When I reached Washington last night, I was surprised to find that my bedroom and sitting room were being painted, so temporarily I am occupying President Lincoln’s bed! It is particularly large and ornate and I never realized before how awe-inspiring it must be to our guests.

However, I am glad to find that it is very comfortable, because long ago I can remember my grandmother telling me that one should always sleep in all of one’s guests’ beds, to make sure that they are comfortable.

Today is beautiful. The usual White House routine falls upon one like a mantle as soon as one returns. There are people to see, and one gentleman was here for luncheon on his way to New England from Chicago! Diana Hopkins and a little friend are spending the day, and my two daughters-in-law, Ruth and Rommie, were here for lunch.

They are the greatest joy to have with us. Elliott and Ruth are hoping to leave for Texas some time this evening by plane, but so far have not been able to get reservations. The airlines have to play second fiddle to some of the defense needs and people are traveling more constantly by air, with the result that reservations are hard to get.

I wonder if you have seen, in the October American magazine the article on the part the British women are playing in the armed forces of Great Britain? For the first time, they have been accepted in artillery units and are operating anti-aircraft batteries as well as fire control instruments. They are enlisted to fight overseas as well as in England for the duration of the war, and they receive the “danger pay of the combat line.”

We have heard before of women in the Russian Army, but this is the first instance of women actually working side by side with the men in the armed forces of England. It shows that, when the need arises, there are few places where women can not work side by side with men.

I have also received an appeal for charity in which I think everyone in this country will be interested. Those who remember the hospitals in the last war will remember what seemed to be almost the beginning of plastic surgery on a great scale. There are today in England four famous plastic surgeons.

Under auspices of the British American Ambulance Corps, a committee has been formed and is anxious to raise $100,000 to help these surgeons acquire better conditions under which they can treat RAF pilots, munitions workers, civilian defense workers and men, women and children who are maimed or disfigured by modern warfare.

September 13, 1941

New York, Friday –
I am here in New York City today, doing a number of errands, and seeing several people. I want to mention a testimonial luncheon here today at the Hotel Astor, which is to be held under the auspices of the Town Hall and the Economic Club of New York, in honor of Mr. Robert Erskine Ely, who will be 80 years old tomorrow.

For 40 years he has directed the Town Hall and, in 1907, he founded the Economic Club. He has probably known as many of the great figures in the world of art, music, politics, science, international affairs and literature as any other one person now living in this great city.

Mr. Ely has been witty, but rarely caustic, always gentle and gracious. He was one of a group of Harvard professors whom many of the noted men of today remember with admiration and joy, for they spent many profitable and entertaining hours in their company.

I know that all my readers will want to wish Robert Erskine Ely a happy birthday. May we continue to appreciate what he and others like him have given us!

Next Monday there will be launched, by Benjamin H. Namm, a plan in the interests of national defense. The American retailer is asking:

In what special way can we, the retail craft, be of service at this time to our country?

The answer is contained in the 1941 National Retail Demonstration, and here are the points stressed:

  1. To practice and to preach the doctrine of “our country first and foremost.”

  2. To act as “purchasing agent for the public,” and, in that connection, avoid even the semblance of profiteering.

  3. To prevent, as far as possible, any unwarranted increase in the price of merchandise, both wholesale and retail.

  4. To eliminate any and all unfair trade practices which may injure the public.

  5. To maintain retail employment at the highest possible level.

  6. To give every possible encouragement to employees who wish to serve their country.

  7. To disseminate to consumers such defense literature and information as the government desires to have distributed.

  8. To urge upon manufacturers that merchandise be informatively labeled.

  9. To eliminate all “scare” advertising, particularly that which says or implies:

Buy now because prices are rising.

Last but not least, to help unify the people of our country through our advertising, display and consumer appeal – in support of our defense program.

September 15, 1941

Washington, Sunday –
Yesterday was a most beautiful day at Hyde Park. In the morning I went over to see our young grandson, Franklin III, at the big house and invited him to come to the cottage to play with me for a while in the afternoon. Miss Thompson and I did some of the work which always seem to accumulate on one’s desk, and a few things my husband asked me to do. Then we saw various people on the place.

The most exciting moment of the day was when the telephone rang while we were eating lunch on the porch, and I heard Franklin Jr.'s voice. He had just landed from his destroyer after five weeks at sea. Much of the time he had been without any letters from home, and he wanted to know where his wife and baby were to be found and what had happened. I told him Ethel was down on Long Island getting some of the details of the house arranged, and I imagine he soon started to join her. He did take time to tell me that he would be in Washington to see his father and to report, on Monday, so I shall see him tomorrow.

The sun was still warm, and so we enjoyed playing ball with Franklin, III, and having a swim in the afternoon. When I explained to him, as we were driving back through the woods, that I had talked to his father on the telephone, he looked very much puzzled, and finally insisted that he talk too. I had some difficulty in explaining that I could not produce his father there and then, either in person or on the telephone.

I started back to Washington this morning because I heard that my brother, who is in the hospital here, was in a more serious condition, and so I do not want to be far away.

I read in the paper, on the way down, Mayor LaGuardia’s announcement of my appointment as Assistant Director of Civilian Defense. We have talked about it for some time and I am anxious to help. I hope that I can contribute something which will make easier and more fruitful, the work of the others responsible for the development of volunteer participation.

It seems to me that there is a great desire on the part of hundreds of men and women, and even children, to help in some way in the present emergency. I feel sure that this reservoir of energy can be used to advantage in every community in the country.

I look forward to working with the Mayor, for whom I have a great admiration, and to my association with Miss Eloise Davison and others whom I already know, as well as the opportunity of meeting all those in the organization.

1 Like

September 16, 1941

Washington, Monday –
A conference this morning to talk with Miss Eloise Davison to talk over some of the things in connection with civilian volunteer participation in national defense. I am trying, as far as possible, to familiarize myself with the organization which now exists. I am studying its accomplishments and publications, so that when I do go to the office, I shall not find myself meeting people whose names I do not know and who are functioning in ways which I do not as yet understand.

I am very much interested in a pamphlet which has been compiled for the organizations which are dealing with the registration of volunteers. It is intended to aid in setting up volunteer registration centers. This seems to be a valuable step, but it will take some time to set them up so they function smoothly. Further organization is required along other lines before community participation can be complete.

I like Mayor LaGuardia’s idea that registering people is comparatively useless, but enrolling them to do definite things is well worthwhile. Obviously, it accomplishes two things at once. It gives a card catalogue of people who may be called upon at any time, and actually places people in positions where they function in their communities.

I talked also this morning with Miss Jane Seaver, who is the youth member on the Committee of Forty-Five on Volunteer Participation. She has worked out a preliminary program for youth participation in the whole picture. Of course, when it comes down to localities; youth, middle age and old age, will all be merged in one group of volunteers working along the lines that, as individuals, they can work on best.

Age or sex will mean very little, but in the initiating or creating of interest, it will be necessary to present a program and opportunities which will be available for training and for service to every group of people through every avenue which can be found.

My press conference at 11:00 a.m., was very short since there are no social engagements at present and none scheduled in the near future, and I have little interest to tell them.

The joy of the day was to see Franklin Jr. even for a few hours, and to find him looking well and enthusiastic as ever about his particular little job in what he thinks is the greatest service in the world, the Navy. It is amusing to hear our Army son do battle for the superiority of his branch of the service, as against the other three who think they must uphold theirs!

September 17, 1941

Washington, Tuesday –
Yesterday noon, I went to buy a stamp at the exhibition which opened “Retailers For Defense Week.” This effort on the part of retailers to do a real job for defense, is a very wise move. While it may curtail some of the buying at the present time, it will put money in people’s pockets for future use. We shall need that money to keep us from too great a business slump during the transition from defense work to normal activities.

It seems to me that in everything we do today, we should have an eye to our present needs, but at the same time think far enough ahead to guard against some of the difficulties we have undergone in the past.

For instance, if the production of automobiles is going to be drastically curtailed in order that industry may take a bigger share in defense work, why not plan to put money, which in ordinary times we might set aside for a new automobile, into Defense Stamps, and call those stamps: “Our Automobile Fund” for the future?

We may have to use our old car a bit longer than we would ordinarily think wise, or even economically sound, but at least we can arrange our own finances so that they are helpful to the government at present and useful to us when the day comes for buying that new car.

Women are as interested in all these business questions as men. During the week of October 5-11, which will be observed as Business and Professional Women’s Week throughout the nation, there will be special emphasis on the plans laid by which women, many of whom are influential in business and professional groups, can aid the defense program.

I wish they would all think not only of the problems which come before them in business, but also of the many local problems which in the end, are going to be very vital in national defense. A particularly vital problem is participation of volunteers in work where their efforts will be valuable.

I am counting on these important women’s organizations to make a valuable contribution in the working out of the volunteer services. They must be rendered on a very large scale if this country is ever to be really well prepared and fully defended.

I was very much interested to see yesterday that the Reader’s Digest is going to be published in Portuguese as well as in Spanish. This publication has proved that it is possible to bring out in this country a magazine that is read by our South and Central American neighbors with interest, and I wish this new venture great success.

September 18, 1941

Washington, Wednesday –
I received a letter in my mail yesterday, signed with an assumed name. The lady is much annoyed with the President because she has been told that he has been holding a bill on his desk, which happens to affect a particular situation in her own family. She has been told this over a long period, and feels that an injustice is being done because the President has not acted.

I have no idea what the particular provisions of this bill are, nor what the reasons are which have delayed the final signing which would make it effective, but I have learned from long experience that there are always reasons. No matter how much I may be interested in some particular case, there are invariably a great many cases which make further consideration necessary for one reason or another.

So, “Judy Grady,” whoever you may be, I’ll mention the case you are interested in to the President, but I doubt if it is “obstinacy” on his part which is holding up the final decision. I hope your “womanly spleen” won’t lead you into a course of action which will defeat the things you really care about. You happen to be annoyed over a serious situation which must, however, in the long run be considered from the point of view of “the many” rather than from the point of view of “the one.”

I wonder if my readers know of the new radio program which begins on Sunday, September 21st, on the NBC Red Network, from 12:30 to 1:00 p.m. Eastern Daylight Saving Time. This broadcast is announced by Dr. John W. Studebaker, U.S. Commissioner of Education, under whose auspices it has been arranged. There are to be six educational radio programs, under the title of Freedom’s People. These are sponsored by a special committee with which the U.S. Office of Education cooperates. Dr. Studebaker says:

Never more than now is national unity an absolute essential. The double purpose of Freedom’s People is to show America the ability and aspirations of its Negro population, and to spur Negroes, themselves, to greater service by examples of their work.

The first broadcast will show what Negroes have done in American music, and at intervals of about a month, the five other programs will follow.

I hope that many people will listen to these broadcasts, for the more we know about each other and about our contributions to the good things in our country, the less we shall be liable to fall a victim to that most pernicious thing called “racial and religious prejudice.”

September 19, 1941

Washington, Thursday –
At tea time yesterday afternoon, people seemed to drop in until we had quite a party! Mrs. Henry Stimson, wife of the Secretary of War, had asked to come to see me. I had a feeling that we would be more or less alone, but as the day wore on, I kept telling Miss Thompson to ask this or that person whom I wanted to see, to drop in at tea time. The result was that we ended with eight or nine people.

At breakfast time and in the late afternoon, the South Portico is a very nice place to be on a warm day. I have luncheon out there too, but each day I think when the hour arrives, how foolish I am, for it is far cooler indoors. In the early morning or late afternoon, however, there is always a little air stirring and one can always enjoy the view of the monument and the green lawn stretching down to the fountain near the curved driveway, which circles the White House grounds.

Yesterday, I told you about a future broadcast. Today I want to tell you about a series of articles which the magazine Common Sense is announcing. They plan later to have them published in book form, but in the meantime, both the subject matter and the authors make me feel that none of us will want to miss them. They deal in a general way with the “shape of the future.”

The editors, in their announcement, say a few things which, if they are really carried out by the articles, mean that we shall be given something vital to think about. One statement reads:

The crucial question for believers in democracy is whether the constructive possibilities are to be realized… We can not hope merely to save what we have. No Maginot Line can hold back the tide of change… We need a dynamic defense which will build our own democratic new order, even while fighting Hitler.

A book like Eugene Lyons’ The Red Decade is disappointing. It gives most valuable and truthful necessary knowledge about Communism in Russia and in the United States. His conception of fighting this evil, however, seems to be a return to all that we have been and have done in the past.

That is manifestly impossible. There is a willingness on the part of so many people to accept the fact that we must recognize situations as they are and be grateful for such books as this, which show us truthfully what they are. But, at the same time, there is no salvation in a denial of necessary change, or in a refusal to learn even from sources whose general philosophies of life and government, we want to defeat.

September 20, 1941

Washington, Friday –
The President left last night for Hyde Park, where he will have the pleasure of seeing two of our grandsons, little Franklin III and Haven Clark Roosevelt. I saw Johnny and Anne started on their drive West at a very early hour yesterday morning. They expect to reach San Diego, Cal., and to be settled by the time I start their young son on his trip by train across the Continent. In the meantime, I am missing an opportunity of seeing these two youngsters, because we are still very anxious about my brother.

The President has, in addition, as visitors in Hyde Park, the Crown Princess of Norway and her children, who are on their way home from Cape Cod. The house became so crowded that my daughter-in-law, Ethel, decided that she would take over my cottage for the weekend, and she has two young couples staying there with her. I think my husband will have plenty of activity around him, though he said he intended to get a complete rest before his return on Monday morning!

In the meantime, I am being kept very busy by visits to my brother in the hospital, and meetings with various people in preparation to moving into the new quarters of the Office of Civilian Defense. Coming into an organization which already has started, always means, for a while, that you are a little breathless trying to catch up with what everybody has done. I can hope to achieve in the near future only a slight knowledge of the work thus far accomplished.

I came across an amusing editorial in one of our newspapers the other night, entitled, “America Eats.” It is an attack on the WPA writers program because, forsooth, they have undertaken to prepare a book on American eating habits! They say that an indignant reader wishes to know:

How much will this new boondoggling cost?

It is evident that the reader and the editorial writer lack an historical approach. In the future, many people are going to be more interested in knowing what we ate in this period of our history, than in a great many other things which seem more important to these solemn minded writers.

For instance, a scientist may, perhaps, be able to tell because of this book, why certain physical characteristics or ailments existed in our people at this particular time. He may be able to trace from the eating habits of certain sections, the reasons for certain sociological changes. You are not interested in eating habits purely because you like food. These habits may be the source which will explain many events in the history of this period.

1 Like

September 22, 1941

Washington, Sunday –
We had an interesting evening on Friday. First we saw some short documentary films, and then two gentlemen, Mr. Charles L. Todd and Mr. Sonkin, who have been making recordings of interesting folk songs and dance music in the migratory camps on the West Coast for the Library of Congress, played some of their records.

One, a song by a boy of fourteen, was a gem, though he was covered with confusion and ran away when he heard it played! Many of the records, like the song written by a woman about her trip from Texas to the West, were heartrending, in spite of the fact that one could not help laughing at certain little twists of language and expression.

These recordings are going to be historically interesting, but the inspiring thing to me is that people can live through such hardships and still have music in their souls and the ability to express themselves hopefully. Mr. Todd told me that when they have a dance, or are happy, over the prospect of work or some small event in their daily lives, these people apparently seem to be able to enjoy themselves with complete forgetfulness of the past and the future. They have learned what so many of us do not learn – that the present is the only thing we really possess.

Last night I was reading a little volume, arranged for publication by Stanwood Cobb. It is called The Wisdom of Wu Ming Fu, and is a collection of his translated poems and sayings. The Chinese philosophy over the centuries, has come to the same conclusion as our migrants, and they would agree with Mr. Fu that:

…it should be our concern to make each present moment perfect.

Yesterday was a most beautiful day and, after a morning visit to my brother in the hospital, four of us went by car to Sugarloaf Mountain and basked in the sun, with a beautiful view spread out below us. After lunch, in the shade of some trees, with the rocks as our seats, we read aloud the preface to a short anthology called We Hold These Truths, compiled by Stuart Gerry Brown of Grinnell, Iowa.

This address impressed me, for I know two pretty good representatives of what American citizenship means, who are now in Washington and who have had close association with this same place in the past. This anthology is a collection of documents, written by our great men over the period of our whole history. Documents which all of us frequently want and should turn to, to clarify our own beliefs and convictions. It is good to have them in such compact form and I am grateful to Mr. Brown for his labors.

September 23, 1941

Washington, Monday –
This morning, I dashed into a building which before long, will house the office of Director LaGuardia’s Civilian Defense Committee. I was quite astounded to find how quickly the moving had been done. Over the weekend, desks, files and bundles of every kind had been picked up from one office and moved to another.

People were actually at work, but I am afraid many of them will be shifted about before they reach their permanent places. I confess I found it hard to visualize doing any kind of work in that rather confused atmosphere, but I saw some people who looked as if they were accomplishing something. I simply looked at the rooms in which I am going to be housed, decided on the place for desks and telephones, and went out as quickly as possible.

Mrs. DeForest Van Slyke, Miss Wilma Shields, Miss Eloise Davison, Miss Thompson and I had lunch together to discuss certain points in our program. The Civilian Defense Volunteer offices are, of course, the first step toward organizing any community, and this responsibility falls largely on Mrs. Van Slyke and Miss Shields.

We are getting all we can out of Mrs. Van Slyke as a consultant, because she is not able to spend every day with us, since her family lives in New York City. Instead, she has left us Miss Shields, and I feel sure that Miss Davison and I shall find her a very great help.

I saw a very amusing item in the paper the other day. An Italian paper in Turin, is quoted as saying that our efforts to make military life pleasant and attractive is producing an army of “mama’s boys.” It seems to me they have short memories in Turin. They forget that some twenty odd years ago, another generation of “mama’s boys” came over to Europe and fought with them on the same side, and at that time they were hailed as among the toughest fighters anywhere along the line, which is not always the reputation of the Italian boys.

The paper went on to say that the mothers of this new generation, which has suddenly changed its characteristics, felt that their sons were conscripted in a lost cause. Lost causes have always been the best challenge to the U.S.A. They are the causes in which we usually achieve our greatest successes.

I happen to have liked the Italy which I once knew as a country, and I like the people even more. Here, in this country, there are many, many Italians who may be found among these, “mama’s boys.” They will be none the worse as soldiers of the U.S. because they love their mothers and are lonely away from home. I have always hoped we never again would have to fight any other nation in the world. If we do, however, I have complete confidence in the fighting spirit and ability to win of our “mama’s boys.”

September 24, 1941

Washington, Tuesday –
Yesterday afternoon I received Dr. Juan Carlos Blanco, the Ambassador of Uruguay and Madame Blanco, and Mr. Fernand Dennis, the Minister of Haiti, and Madame Dennis. They were my first diplomatic visitors for the fall, and they certainly were charming ones.

Secretary and Mrs. Morgenthau dined with us last night, and today Mrs. Morgenthau has been catching up on some of the civilian defense work on which we are going to work together in the coming months. I find a wealth of volunteers who are anxious to do something useful, but I shall not be satisfied until I begin to see people actually at work in communities all over the country. That is where the real civilian defense must have its roots.

It certainly has been delightful weather, neither too hot nor too cold. I am beginning to wonder if September is not one of the most pleasant months to be in Washington. Rain is needed badly, however, but when the sky is blue one can hardly wish for a rainy day.

I have been reading some articles in a magazine called Who. One is about Mr. and Mrs. Melvyn Douglas and it is a charmingly written and very accurate description of two useful and busy lives. My admiration for Mr. and Mrs. Douglas is very deep, because they are among the few people I know who will smilingly make the necessary sacrifices for their convictions.

I imagine the article on Mayor LaGuardia is also written with knowledge, as well as sympathy and understanding. I loved the little quotation which says that the Mayor avers any emotion which he shows is “very deliberate.” I confess I have had a suspicion that he sometimes gets angry on purpose.

It has often been said that righteous indignation is good for the soul. I have never been able to prove it, since I am never quite sure that I am righteously indignant, but I do know it is good for the soul to let your indignation evaporate in words.

A good part of the past few days and nights has been spent in the Walter Reed Hospital with my brother. I should like to write a eulogy on the devotion of the doctors, nurses and corpsmen in this hospital. I have never seen more kindness, more patience and more infinite attention to detail. I cannot say, however, that it is a very pleasant or easy way to spend one’s time.

September 25, 1941

Washington, Wednesday –
A few days ago, I received in my mail, a release from the British War Relief Society. Through Mrs. Alfred Hess, they are making an appeal which I feel sure will be answered by a great many women in this country. For $5.00, they can provide materials from which “packages for women of the British fighting forces” can be made up and sent to them wherever they may be. Mrs. Hess also appeals for workers to help in the preparation of these packages. I am sure both of these appeals are going to be met with great generosity.

Yesterday, by proxy, I learned a good deal about my new job, because Mrs. Henry Morgenthau Jr. met the staff in the morning, and sat in on Director LaGuardia’s meeting. In the afternoon, she met with another group, which discussed the complexities of the jurisdiction of work. All existing organizations will finally be drawn into a pattern where everybody will do his best with the least possible friction.

Anybody with experience knows what this can mean in the way of difficulty during the period of organization. A hundred times a day I shall wish what I have so often wished in the past, that human beings could be reconstructed overnight. If we would think only of the objectives to be achieved and never of the instruments to be used, least of all ourselves, how much more we could accomplish.

Great teachers through the ages have tried to teach us that this is the only efficient way of working and, perhaps, in the end, the only way through which any civilization can be saved. However, we do not always believe these teachers.

Yesterday I read through a little book called Digging For Mrs. Miller by John Strachey. It is an account of the experiences of an air raid warden in England. It is certainly different from anything I have ever read by him before. He is dealing with facts, whereas in the past he has dealt almost always with theories. It is a valuable little book and will enable people to visualize daily life for the ordinary man and woman where total defense is required.

The picture of the way the air raid wardens sleep, dressed and ready to go on duty at any time, and then go on with whatever their day’s job may be, is one which not many of us can visualize. The young mother with a sick child may be able to do it, or anyone with severe illness at home who has been obliged to continue with a regular job, may grasp it, but most of us know that at some time in the near future the strain will come to an end. No one in London knows when it will come to an end, and the price of safety is eternal vigilance.